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Gene Mingo grew up as a mischievous kid in Akron, Ohio, with a challenging childhood and love for high school football. After a stint in the US Navy, he found his way back to football. In 1960, he joined the American Football League as a placekicker, halfback, and return specialist for the Denver Broncos—but that was just the beginning.

Gene has been inducted into the America Football League Hall of Fame, reflecting an illustrious career that included the first punt return for a touchdown in the AFL and two years spent leading the AFL in scoring. History considers him to have been the first African American placekicker in the AFL. Life isn’t lived only on the football field, however; outside the game, number twenty-one had troubles.

Perhaps due to finding success too quickly, Gene developed a tendency to fall in with a bad crowd. His poor choices led to near tragedy, but he always found a home on the football field. Gene Mingo’s story isn’t simple. It wasn’t easy being a black man in a white man’s world, and Gene had some internal demons of his own as well. Still, his story is that of legend, and the trials and tribulations of this spectacular athlete deserve to be remembered forever.

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